Skip to content

Entrepreneurs Panel

David Pollock
Richard O'Sullivan
Charlie Mullins
Julie Meyer
Laura Tenison
Brian Hay
Michael Oliver
Jennie Johnson
Debbie Pierce
Jeremy Roberts
Tony Caldeira
Steve Purdham

SME growth expectations bounce back in Q1

SMEs signalled a more bullish outlook in the first quarter of 2016, with almost half expecting sales to increase in the months ahead, according to new research.

The SME Confidence Tracker from Bibby Financial Services shows growth expectations rose by 12 percentage points compared with Q4 2015, while the number of small firms expecting sales to decline fell by over half from 17 per cent to eight per cent.

Forty-eight per cent of businesses expected to see sales increase in the coming three months, up from 36 per cent in Q4.

SMEs were also upbeat about investment, with three-quarters putting money into new office equipment, IT and machinery.

Looking ahead to second quarter of 2016, firms indicated that investment will focus on recruitment and technology. Businesses plan to invest an average of £43,700 in Q2.

Yet despite the positive outlook, there were lingering concerns over the UK's economic environment. More than a quarter - 26 per cent - of firms said this is the main reason holding back investment.

SMEs cited increased competition, red tape, regulation and rising costs as their top challenges.

David Postings, global chief executive of Bibby Financial Services, said: " Despite the uncertainties of the upcoming EU referendum and a muted outlook for the UK economy, small business owners started the year in an unexpectedly bullish manner displaying more confidence than in the second half of 2015.

"Having made business-critical capex decisions and invested in the building blocks of business in 2015, SMEs are looking to position themselves for growth in 2016. However, we aren't out of the woods yet as SMEs still don't believe in the UK growth story and optimism remains far below 2014 levels.

"We have had three hugely impactful political debates in as many years with the Scottish referendum, General Election and forthcoming EU referendum.

"Add to this changes such as the National Living Wage and pension auto-enrolment, it's clear that SMEs crave stability and would benefit from a more simplified operating environment.

"The Budget nibbled at the edges of SMEs' challenges but much more can be done to get businesses moving in 2016. This should include rebalancing the North-South divide by offering tax breaks to redevelop brownfield sites rather than building on greenbelt farmland."

  • Kathryn Parsons, co-founder of Decoded, started with little more than faith and determination, but four years later it’s grown into a global business. Ahead of her appearance at Accelerate 2015 in...

  • Author, writer and marketer Ryan Holiday on how entrepreneurs need to interpret failure.

  • Sue Vizard, business coach and author of Jump Start: The Start-up Book for Your Dream Business, looks at some of the questions solo entrepreneurs should ask themselves.

  • Ian Wright, founder and chief executive of NonExecutiveDirectors.com, is bringing together SMEs and NEDs - without the hefty recruitment fees.

  • Former professional golfer turned entrepreneur Colin Stevens has had a busy 18 months. The Better Bathrooms founder has increased turnover at the firm, secured a multi-million pound investment and...

Five Minutes With

Reputation is everything when it comes to running a successful business, according to Sacha Lord-Marchionne and Sam Kandel, founders of the Warehouse Project (WHP), a series of club nights featuring DJs from all over the world, which was launched back in 2006.

After travelling the world in a corporate role, Mike Wheeler decided that he had had enough of living out of a suitcase and so got a job running a small family business.